Right to culture ‘should be enshrined in the Constitution’

Oireachtas committee recommends new legislation and extra funding for the arts

A report by an Oireachtas committee has said the State should  invest 0.6 per cent of GDP in the arts. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

A report by an Oireachtas committee has said the State should invest 0.6 per cent of GDP in the arts. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The cultural rights of Irish citizens should be recognised and protected through an Amendment to the Constitution, a report from the Oireachtas joint committee on arts and heritage has said.

The report is the committee’s official response to Culture 2025, the Government’s national culture policy, which aims to provide a framework for the sector over the next decade.

Among the report’s 42 proposals are recommendations that current legislation governing the arts sector be comprehensively reviewed “and that new legislation be introduced where necessary”.

The report says there should be “meaningful commitments” on arts and heritage funding, with a specific target of increasing investment in the sector to 0.6 per cent of national GDP, which is the EU average.

It calls for a comprehensive study of the funding available for the cultural and creative industries, “including the consideration of new funding models”.

It also suggests new measures, such as the introduction of a withholding tax on international performers who play concerts in the country, that could be used to fund Irish culture.

At a presentation of the report in Leinster House on Wednesday, committee chairman and Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín said that, when it came to culture and heritage, the political establishment had historically “been fluent in what needs to be done, but shy in putting the necessary resources and structures in place to make sure the sector flourishes”.

Party colleague Senator Fintan Warfield, who Mr Tóibín said was responsible for much of the research for and drafting of the document, commended the Government for the Creative Ireland initiative, but said the committee’s recommendations also needed to be implemented.

‘Culture voucher’

Other recommendations in the report include the possible introduction of an “arts, heritage and culture voucher” that would be issued to every citizen every six months, and more tax reliefs for cultural projects, similar to the Section 481 reliefs currently available for the film industry.

Asked how the various proposals would be paid for, Mr Tóibín said there was disagreement over how much the State actually spends on arts and heritage.

He cited as an example the fact that money from the State’s budget for commemorations this year was being used to fund the legal costs of its ongoing appeal against the designation of the area between Moore Street and O’Connell Street in Dublin as a national monument.

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Arts later rejected that claim as “complete and utter nonsense”.

The spokesperson said Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys would consider the report “in due course”, but that many of its recommendations were already being implemented.